Neil Warnock has questioned the defensive capabilities of Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, saying he has been “lucky” to play for the club.
Azpilicueta, 32, recently guided the Blues to Club World Cup glory after Thomas Tuchel’s men beat Palmeiras 2-1 in the United Arab Emirates, meaning he has now won every major honour available to him at Stamford Bridge.
Alongside his CWC winner’s medal, Azpilicueta has sealed the Champions League, Europa League (twice), Premier League (twice), FA Cup, League Cup and the Super Cup, winning the latter in the summer at the expense of Villarreal.
When Chelsea take on Crystal Palace at the weekend, Azpilicueta will play his 460th match for the Blues, which consolidates his position as the club’s seventh-highest appearance-maker, ahead of Dennis Wise, Steve Clarke and Kerry Dixon.
Despite his achievements in the game for Chelsea, Warnock believes the 36-capped Spain international is not a great defender, and even thinks he has been fortunate to play for a club like the Blues for as long as he has.
Speaking on TalkSPORT, Warnock said: “I think it goes two ways to be honest. I think Azpilicueta has been a very fortunate lad to be a at a club like Chelsea. I don’t think he is a great defender.
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“Sometimes in football you need a bit of luck and I think he’s had a bit of luck at the right time and in the right place. That’s what you need in football, you need a bit of luck to be successful.”
This is not the first time Warnock has been critical of Azpilicueta. During his stint as Cardiff City manager, the 73-year-old was fined £20,000 by the FA for slating officials after the Spaniard netted a controversial late equaliser for Chelsea, before Ruben Loftus-Cheek nicked a winner for Maurizio Sarri’s men in March 2019.
Azpilicueta even admitted after the contest in Wales that he thought he may have been offside, issuing a tongue-in-cheek gesture to cover Warnock’s fine.
He said: “We will talk in private about sending him money. I was there in the middle because I was the one who scored the goal. When I scored, I looked at the linesman. I thought I was on the edge.”
Former Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has since leapt to the defence of his ex-teammate, replying to TalkSPORT’s clip on Twitter by posting three emojis of a face-palm, a monkey covering its eyes and a confused face.
— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) February 15, 2022